The Eco-Cathedral / Louis le Roy

Rotterdam, The Netherlands

In the 1970s, Louis Guillaume Le Roy (1924-2012) became known for the idea of the wild garden. Recently, this unruly artist and self-proclaimed ‘ecotect’ has been rediscovered. His plea for a creative interaction between plants, animals and humans not only stretched the boundaries of art; it also anticipated today’s ecological thinking. 

In 1973, Le Roy published the book Natuur uitschakelen natuur inschakelen  (Switch on Nature, Switch off Nature), in which he unfolds an ecological vision of the development of gardens, parks and cities. He rejects the monotony of controlled, functionalist urban development. Natural systems are rich and complex and offer more space for the development of human creativity. 

Natural systems are rich and complex and offer more space for the development of human creativity.

His gardens are not so much designed as gradually self-developing on a foundation of stacked construction waste. Residents and users are actively involved in the stacking and sometimes in the sowing and planting of the natural ruins. After that, maintenance is limited to what is absolutely necessary. Time and the natural growth process are given plenty of room.  

The Eco-Cathedral

The Eco-Cathedral in Mildam, his most famous work, has been continuously ‘constructed’ since the 1960s, using rubble – tiles, bricks and beams – from the nearby municipality of Heerenveen. Plants, animals and people continue to work together and the complexity of the ecosystem grows, forming an ideal habitat for numerous insects, birds, amphibians and other animals. The current interest in Le Roy fits in with thinking about the future of garden and landscape archives, which are now often inaccessible or even threatened. Together with various partners, Het Nieuwe Instituut is investigating a long-term perspective for important legacies such as that of Louis Le Roy.

Los Angeles landscape firm Terremoto asked to talk about the Eco-Cathedrals by Louis Le Roy.

The lecture was recorded and can be seen here.

Design by Minji Choi.

Research and texts by Joost Emmerik

Archive by Suzanne Mulder.

Art direction by Frank Bruggeman.

Graphic design by David Bennewith.

Thanks to builders Roelof and Marcel.